One by one, major cities and some states have begun to enforce the stringent penalties listed in the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill. Warnings are going out that fines upto Rs 1,000 will be levied on those who ride two-wheelers without a helmet and upto 10 times that for drunken driving. The law aims to infuse far more discipline on India’s roads, which have proved among the world’s deadliest, with an annual toll of about 1.46 lakh lives. There is reason to be sceptical on this count as India has among the most careless road users, apathetic to road sense and no concern for others. Also, if the punishment is disproportionate to a crime, it won’t serve any purpose, and possibly only make bribes a little more inflation-proof for the traffic police on duty.
The bill’s humane provisions protecting “good samaritans” from the officious police machinery and a legal merry-go-round should be welcomed. What remains to be seen is whether the new MV Act will fulfil the larger role of formulating a national transportation policy , enunciated by a new National Road Safety Board to cater to today’s environment involving taxi aggregators and driverless vehicles in the not so distant future. The ministry aims to see an even bigger picture and act to make all public road transport more environment-friendly with electric transmission buses, etc, in major metropolises. Parts of the road transport industry may not be happy with the increased outlays on insurance, but it is the duty of the government to ensure that road victims or their families get just compensation from the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund.